Leo Tolstoy on military life

Colonel Russell Williams, commander of one of Canada's largest military bases stands accused of multiple murders and sexual assaults.

People wonder how a decorated soldier, who mingled with the imperial regime (Williams gave a tour of the base to government apparatchiks shortly before his arrest), could do such a thing?

The great Leo Tolstoy, who served in the imperial wars, knows what military life is all about. Tolstoy writes in his best novel, Resurrection:

"Military life in general depraves men. It places them in conditions of complete idleness, i.e., absence of all useful work; frees them of their common human duties, which it replaces by merely conventional ones to the honour of the regiment, the uniform, the flag; and, while giving them on the one hand absolute power over other men, also puts them into conditions of servile obedience to those of higher rank than themselves.

But when, to the usual depraving influence of military service with its honours, uniforms, flags, its permitted violence and murder, there is added the depraving influence of riches and nearness to and intercourse with members of the Imperial family, then this depraving influence creates in the men who succumb to it a perfect mania of selfishness."

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